I don't normally do match previews for preseason games, but this is a slightly different situation. Chivas USA will play Mexican Primera side Club Tijuana this evening in San Diego, a neutral site but probably more of a home site for the Xolos than for Chivas (8 pm, University of San Diego Torero Stadium). The friendly will be one of the only ones for Chivas with a foreign opponent in 2012, with the exception of AIK at the upcoming Portland tournament (and any summer friendlies that may be scheduled, har har), and I believe this is the first match in the U.S. for Club Tijuana since promotion to the first division (as a second-divsion club, they played the LA Galaxy in the "San Diego Clasico" a year ago). As a result, this match is not a typical preseason match for the Goats.
Besides San Diego bragging rights, there are several storylines linking the clubs and countries. Tijuana midfielder Joe Corona, recently given the rookie of the year award in Mexico, is a San Diego native and played collegiate soccer at San Diego State University for a year. That personal connection, plus the proximity of Tijuana to San Diego, means there is likely to be a large (probably predominant) pro-Xolos contingent.In addition, two players formerly associated with Chivas USA have recently signed with Club Tijuana. Forward Bryan de la Fuente was with the Chivas system since 2008 until this offseason, when he was released without a first team appearance in 2011. He recently signed with Tijuana, and discussed the move with Tom Marshall over at the MLS website. If he gets on the field tonight, he will clearly try to make Chivas sorry for releasing him. In addition, former Chivas Academy member Esteban "Stevie" Rodriguez recently signed with Tijuana, a controversial move among Chivas leadership, who were considering offering him a professional contract this year.
In addition, Tijuana has two other Americans on their first team: defenders Edgar Castillo and Greg Garza. It's unclear how seriously Tijuana will take this match, and I don't expect a full-strength lineup, but Eric Gomez at Goal.com, who covers the Xolos, said coach Antonio Mohamed has indicated he will likely play at least a few first team players.
For Chivas, the match will be a bigger test than previous preseason games, and the very public setting and attention paid to the game will ratchet the pressure, but expect them to use it first and foremost as a tuneup for the MLS season. As Robin Fraser indicated to Adam Serrano in an article on the league website, it appears the first team will get an extended stint on the field, but if the game isn't going well, or if any injuries or fatigue set in, he probably won't hesitate to yank the starters. That seems like the proper approach, as this is a fun game that the fans care about, but it's also a friendly, and the overall focus is the MLS season. Does it sound like I'm capitulating? Maybe, but I think it's important to keep perspective. Win, lose, or draw, it's a friendly.
I am not aware of any streams of the match, unfortunately, but if I hear something, I'll tweet it. Additionally, assuming the internet in the stadium works, I will have a gamestream of the match on this site, so you can follow along if you aren't at the game. And if you are at the game, be sure to weigh in with your observations before, during and after the match.
What do you think? Any predictions? Leave a comment below!